There was likely no general manager/manager pairing in the American League more on the hot seat entering this season than Toronto’s Alex Anthopoulos and John Gibbons. After all, the Blue Jays were spring AL favorites in 2013 after a busy offseason. They finished 74-88, last in the AL East.
It’s still early, but those two look safe as Toronto appears as if it can compete for the division title. It’s not that the Jays look like world-beaters, but it’s possible the AL East winner could finish with fewer than 90 wins for the first time since 2000 when the Yankees did. Toronto is currently +600 to win the division at Bovada.
Toronto started last year at 10-21 and never really recovered. An early-season injury to Jose Reyes and massive struggles from pitchers Mark Buehrle and RA Dickey were a big cause of the Jays’ start. Those were three of the key players Anthopoulos had acquired before that season.
The 2014 Jays entered Tuesday’s series opener against Baltimore already at 10 wins. Reyes is the key to the lineup as the leadoff man, and he already has served a stint on the disabled list so keeping him healthy is a must. Ditto for slugger Jose Bautista, and he’s off to a strong start after playing only 118 games a season ago. Thus far he resembles the guy who led the AL in home runs in 2010 and ’11.
Outfielder Melky Cabrera, another acquisition before last season, is among the AL batting leaders after being limited to 88 games last year and hitting .279. Cabrera would have won the NL batting crown in 2012 had he had enough at-bats. Another Blue Jay off to a hot start is first baseman Adam Lind (.324 average, six RBIs), but he’s now on the disabled list.
Buehrle looks like a Cy Young favorite in the early going, and he is scheduled to start Toronto’s series opener with Boston on Friday at Rogers Centre. Last year, Buehrle was 1-1 with a 6.35 ERA in five April starts. This year: 4-0 with a major-league best 0.64 ERA and yet to allow a home run. He is the first Jays starter to win his first four starts of a season since Roy Halladay seven years ago.
In 2013, Buehrle was solid against Boston with a 2-1 record and 3.31 ERA in five starts. David Ortiz is a career .364 hitter off Buehrle with three home runs and 13 RBIs. Dustin Pedroia is 12-for-33 with three doubles. AJ Pierzynski is 8-for-20 off his former White Sox teammate.
The other scheduled starters for Toronto in the Red Sox series are Brandon Morrow on Saturday and the knuckleballer Dickey on Sunday. Morrow was 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA in one start against Boston last year. Dickey was rocked: 0-2 with a 8.53 ERA in two starts, allowing 12 runs and four homers in 12.2 innings.
Boston was 11-8 against Toronto in 2013 and 5-4 at Rogers Centre. Bautista hit .326 with five home runs and 11 RBIs in 13 games against the Sox. Edwin Encarnacion had four home runs and eight RBIs. The Jays have moved up to 11-1 to win the AL pennant and 20-1 to win the World Series.
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